Turfgrass Installation Guide
For New Sod
The first step in establishing new sod is to assess the
existing site and design a plan for proper planting. Some sites may have existing vegetation, debris, or other items in place that need removal. It is also important to inspect the perimeter of the site to see if there are obstructions in place that may prevent adequate sunlight, water, or even maintenance equipment from reaching the lawn. If potential obstructions or debris exist, it is best to remove them prior to preparing the soil for sodding. This is also a good time to take initial measurements of the lawn so that you can estimate the budget, purchase the correct amount of sod, determine what type of tillage or other equipment can access the site, and design irrigation plans if needed.
Proper soil preparation is an essential step in ensuring long-term success of newly established lawns. Soils that are high in clay are easily compacted and can benefit dramatically from soil amendments containing organic matter, potting soil, or other amended topsoils commonly found in lawn and garden centers. Similarly, very sandy soils can also benefit from these products as a result of increased water holding capacity. In either of these cases, incorporating soil amendments is the most important and effective way to ensure your newly laid sod can establish roots after planting. Place bags or loads of soil amendments evenly throughout the lawn and incorporate them into the existing soil as evenly as possible.
Perennial turfgrasses are some of the most hardy species of plants for use in urban sites, as is demonstrated by their success when planted on hard, compacted soils. While tilling may not be necessary, or even possible in all cases, tilling the soil prior to sodding is the most important and effective way to ensure your newly laid sod can establish roots after planting. Furthermore, university research shows that tilling to a depth of 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) will dramatically improve drought tolerance and turfgrass survival during prolonged periods of no rainfall or irrigation.
When tilling, make sure the final grade is sloped away from any homes or buildings and/or towards any drain lines or outlets such that water drains away from the home. Be sure to fill in any low spots and remove any high spots. After tilling is complete, firm up the surface enough that it can be walked on without leaving significant depressions from foot traffic.
Proper soil preparation is an essential step in ensuring long-term success of newly established lawns. Soils that are high in clay are easily compacted and can benefit dramatically from soil amendments containing organic matter, potting soil, or other amended top soils commonly found in lawn and garden centers. Similarly, very sandy soils can also benefit from these products as a result of increased water holding capacity. In either of these cases, incorporating soil amendments is the most important and effective way to ensure your newly laid sod can establish roots after planting. Place bags or loads of soil amendments evenly throughout the lawn and incorporate them into the existing soil as evenly as possible.
If possible, make one final pass with a rake as the sod is being laid to ensure good sod-to-soil contact. Lay each row of sod in a staggered, brick-like fashion and ensure that each slab or roll of sod is laid firmly in place to the adjacent pieces and that the edges do not overlap. Edges that overlap will dry out easily and will likely be scalped during the first mowing. If possible,
rolling the newly laid sod with a drum-type, water-filled roller immediately after planting is a great way to make sure the sod is firmly in place with good sod-to-soil contact.
TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL INSTALLATION
• Soil tests are the most accurate and reliable way to
determine soil nutrient status and pH when tilling in nutrients or other amendments prior to sodding.
• Soil tests often take several days or weeks to be processed so conduct any necessary sampling and testing far enough ahead of time to receive the results from the lab prior to tillage or other soil preparation.
• Tilling in soil amendments is the most effective way to
ensure that sod has adequate rooting depth to maximize drought tolerance and survival during prolonged drought.
• Lay sod in a staggered, brick-like fashion perpendicular to
• In hot weather, protect unlaid pallets of sod by placing them in the shade until planting.
• Water multiple times per day to keep the newly laid sod moist until it is firmly rooted, which usually occurs in 1-2 weeks. Refer to the TPI manual Turfgrass Watering & Care for NEW SOD for more tips on how to properly irrigate
newly laid sod.
• Avoid heavy use of the sod until it has firmly rooted and has been mowed 2-3 times.
• Preventative fungicides are extremely valuable when laying Tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, or other cool season species of turfgrass during periods of hot weather.
• Last but not least when laying new sod, be sure to
remember Green Side Up
It is essential to begin watering new turfgrass sod immediately upon establishment. This can be done by hand-watering with a water hose and nozzle, hose-end sprinkler, in-ground irrigation system, or any combination thereof. When watering new sod, make sure that the sod and the soil layer immediately beneath the sod is moist to a depth of ½ to 1 inch (0.125 to 2.5 cm). Lifting the corners of random pieces of sod and checking for moisture is a good way to ensure that the sod is wet. Corners, edges, and areas exposed to full sun are particularly prone to drying out. Turfgrass leaves that are wilted and/or bluish-gray in color often appear in these areas first and are a sign of drought stress.
As the sod begins to root, irrigation or hand-watering can be scheduled less frequently. Newly laid sod should be mowed once the underlying surface is firm enough to support it, but should not be prolonged to the point where significant scalping can occur.